RAB CAC INTERVIEW
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Where and what year did you start writing on trains?
I started writing on trains in September 1981. I lived in South Jamaica, Queens (South Side) at the time. The closest train station to me was Sutphin Blvd. (Hillside Ave.) on the E and F line. After being introduced to bombing in the summer of '81; I naturally wanted to hit trains. I gravitated toward my home line. The express track lay-ups at 75th Avenue were a logical choice! Introduced to me by my junior high school partners in Forest Hills. They were White. This was a strange union for me back then. But even stranger, was that we did not venture into the tunnel between 75th Avenue and Union Turnpike. We only hit cars of the train sticking out into the station. They warned me that the tunnels were hot that particular week!
Did you have a particular inspiration or mentor(s)?
I was introduced to the smell of Design Markers; Black books and a definitive writing style by E-Z LG. More aspects of Graff were supplemented by KZ-5 (SERP). Two writers from my junior high school (DICE 5 and MZ-One) introduced me to the terms such as "flooded"; "lay-ups"; "bombing" and "tag". I would list CEY CITY (Notch, Adam) as a particular mentor. I befriended him in the fall of '81 the now-famous GPI Graffiti Gallery run by Joyce Tobin. It was on Hudson St (off 14th Street) in Lower Manhattan's meat packing district. We clicked because he was from Jamaica, Queens. He had a history of doing pieces on lines in Queens and in other boroughs. I used to ride my bike to his house on the weekends. He taught me how to sketch pieces in black books. He also showed me a style of simple, but animated pieces using bands of colors as opposed to blending with thick outlines and 3-D on the letters. Plus I visited the GPI gallery often. I got a whole scope of piecing styles. He was the first to put me down with other historical crews such as OTB, TPA and CITY.
What lines have you hit?
I'm not gonna list the alphabet soup and numbers of New York City transit lines. That would not be detailed. I'll define the lines by defining moments. I began with the E and F (R-46 or Ding dongs) from the Jamaica end in late '81. By early '82, I was hitting the GG (R-10) and the N below the 71st-Continental-Union Turnpike stations. Those R-10s had a strange sound. I think it was the compressors building up pressure. The summer of '82 introduced me to the A and CC from the Brooklyn and Queens end. This was partly due to my High School mate at Brooklyn Tech, DESIRE (DS). His home stop was at Lefferts Blvd in Queens. The other last stop on the longest line in NYC. DESIRE and his crew (later to become mine) from Richmond Hills, Queens introduced me to the famous Oxford; Greenwood and Grant lay-ups of Brooklyn and Queens. Those were days of fierce competition in our neighborhood. Everybody was trying to "king" the insides of the A line. It was crazy, but it was all love! After alternating between the A, CC, E, F, GG, N; I wanted a challenge! I wanted to venture to other lines! I started to skip cars on the previous lines during my bombing missions. I was mostly doing insides. My throw-ups went through many phases before It settled on the one that is still recognizable from late '82. A writer who used to live in Bay Ridge Brooklyn hipped us to the M & RR lay-ups down there! DOLE (DO/DOLER) was the only writer from around my way to take up the challenge to bomb another line. From that summer, DOLE and I become partners in crime. We killed insides on the BMT flats; top-to-bottom ridgies and bulldogs. We quickly realized that summer that the MTA regularly changed these cars and ran them on different lines. We had discovered the route to All-City! By fault of the MTA; we had throw-ups and tags riding on all BMTs (B, D, J, LL, M, N, Q, RR, and S). We rocked that summer with our enhanced Pilots; Magnums and Ban roll on bottles. The ink and paint flowed that summer! The last lines were the numbers. I did not live near any number line, nor did I take any number line to school (Brooklyn Tech). But it was those Tech writers who introduced me to the lay-ups of Brooklyn. Yeahhh! Easy access! Kingston and Nostrand Aves and the multi-track lays of Utica Ave. So I send my shout outs to cats from Tech like SPIN, TATU, SOE, EARL, SORO, DEAN, ATOMIC (Refuge) and others who I cut class with to bomb the 4 line during the afternoon lay-ups. I caught the bug now! 1983 was an intense year of bombing! I did not get to the 1 and 3 and the 6 and 7 lines until 1984. Yoooo! White trains on the 7 line! My girl lived in Corona. So it was always inviting to hit the elevated lay-ups between 103rd and 111th Streets. Eventually I got up considerably on every line on the NYC transit system. Even the MTA buses of southeast Queens! I have done work in EVERY lay-up in the NYC transit system. I've done work in about 80 percent of the yards in existence in the '80s. I was more of a Lay-up writer though!
What borough are you originally from?
As I said before. I represented Southeast, Queens. I lived in Jamaica, but I roamed all over the city! Cats really never had a finger where I actually rested! Cats used to front on Queens; but the eighties were all about Queens when you look back in retrospect at Hip Hop. I did it all in Queens. Djaying; breakbeat-collecting; breakdancing; writing and all of that. But I went to one of the most exclusive high schools in NYC. Brooklyn Tech! So I knew all the Brooklyn movements as a teenager. I didn't get to Harlem until the mid-eighties when close members of CAC moved up to Sugar Hill and the Polo Grounds. I'll get to that later.
Who was your most successful partner(s)?
DOLE (DO/DOLER) was my most successful partner on the MTA lines. We did countless pieces together and ripped insides on sunny, quiet afternoons on elevated lay-ups such as Ocean Parkway, Sheepshead Bay and deep tunnel hide-outs such as 175 Street on the A line! He was disciplined! He never did anything foolish to attract attention to our so called artistic vandalism! We never had any differences! We respected each other's beliefs and kept the focus of the real meaning of graff in NYC Getting Up! We did blackbook pieces together and we laid out elaborate bombing schedules.
How did you get your name?
RAB is my first name. It is a common Muslim name in Africa that means "master, lord or teacher". or "One who brings forth knowledge.". Very similar to Ra of ancient Egypt or Rabbi (Hebrew scholar) of Judaism.
List all the other names under which you are known?
I have always been writing RAB. I have never written or pieced under any pseudonym!
Tell us the history of CAC?
The Crazy Ass Criminals was started in 1981 by KZ-5 and EZ-LG. They were next door neighbors who lived directly across the street from me in South Jamaica, Queens. Heavy recruiting by KZ-5 and I began as we visited Joyce Tobin's GPI gallery in the fall of '81. They did not put me down with the clique until they felt my writing style was "acceptable". That was the summer of '81. I was just glad to be down with a crew. I cannot tell you how many people were down before I got down. But I can tell ya this! No one from CAC was hitting the lines until I got down and started pushing it next to my name on the iron horses! LG never went to the other boroughs with KZ-5 and I. I remember him being highly vexed that I was putting other writers down with CAC. I didn't get full rights until KZ-5 became president. He was hip to the vastness of the graffiti networks existing at the time. Besides writers at our respective schools, many writers were recruited at the GPI graff gallery. (If only I had my blackbook from that year.)
Writers from around our way were also recruited. SLAM, SENER and MAZE II lived around the corner from us. We all united and bombed the E & F tunnels from 75th Avenue to 179th Street Those tags would be priceless! The second phase of CAC began with the alliance of The Richmond Hills/South Ozone Park writers. These writers such as DESIRE (DS), DOLE (DO), JEL, IN 2, RAM AAA, DEL, SIPHOR and others. We spread CAC through the longest snake on the line,the A train! Cats in Washington Heights, Brooklyn and Manhattan glanced and saw CAC vigorously being attached to names. Not to mention; some of the writers recruited by me at GPI began to push CAC. I later became a regular at Henry Chalfant's photo/sculpture studio on Wooster Street (off Canal in Lower Manhattan) Writers were asked to push CAC if I recognized them. Henry was sincere to the art. I applaud him for his tireless efforts to document a now forgotten aspect of Hip Hop! We had writers that lived in the Bronx, Manhattan and even Staten Island. We were not confined to Southeast Queens. I believed in the organization. It was strictly a writing clique. I wanted more so I joined organizations such as Zulu Nation; formed a breakdancing crew with my brother and cousin and djayed and rapped with early CAC members in Southeast, Queens. I was a djay with crates of records before I started bombing! Even through my writing in the mid-eighties, I still found time to set up my equipment in the public school parks with the very same members who where hitting the lines with me.
The meaning of CAC moved from Crazy Ass Criminals to Cool Art Creators. I'm not sure if it was me or the other core members, but that phrase was comfortable! This happened in 1983. KZ-5 retired his marker. I chose SLAM as a vice president. He was knowledgeable about the MTA operations. We believed in reconnaissance. It was SLAM who hipped us to the transit authority terms. We now knew what a R-30 or R-40 was. We knew lay-up times and pull-out times. We had keys! We had a history of the lines largely due to SLAM. The ‘hits’ continued. Some took the mission more seriously than others, some changes had to be made. SLAM and I had our differences. The core members had a vote and we agreed that DOLE should become vice-prez. Conflicts? Yes! But it was necessary at the time. The organization needed the right leadership! I chose all the recruiters. I used to keep a list of who was put down with CAC from me, the VP and the five other recruiters. I still have that list in Accra. The numbers were well over a thousand. I stopped counting in 1987!
SLAM moved to Edgecombe Avenue, and DOLE moved to the Polo Grounds after him. This began the Harlem connection of CAC. It was 1984. Members who are core team players now were HP 173; SUEEIE (Psuey); DENER (DEN) and RAZE were recruited. They did their own thing independent of me. They hit the 155-Yankee stadium; double track lays. The 3 yard at 148th and Lenox and 175 Street on the A. 175th Street became a particular homebase for us. I ‘m not going to front! Many people considered 175th their homebase.
RTWOW and the Dominican FC were running in and out of there also! AA/K and B trains there. I rarely saw an actual A ding dong in there back in those days! That meant the crew always had to come back to Brooklyn and Queens (Pitkin yard and the lay-ups) to keep a presence on the half ridgies and the ding dongs. The slants always switched to the A line. The bulldogs went to various BMT lines. The Harlem CAC crew created considerable beef with the FK at 175th. We beat down many cats up there. A lot of gun play and all that. RTWOW was in and out of there also. This may be why RICH 2, QUIK, SACH, JULY and NE began to go over much of my shit! But then again; they was going over everybody! I have met them on various occasions. Never escalated into serious confrontations though!
I later joined the Airforce. 1986 was my last year of heavy bombing. DOLE and the Harlem crew took over from there. Occasionally I would bomb with them when I returned to NYC on leave. Eventually, Koch got his last dying wish before leaving the mayoral office. The "Buff" beat us! It beat us and a thousand of other writers badly! By 1989, CAC was dead on the lines! 1990 ushered my return to NYC. I took my art to the handball courts and street bombing! Other CAC members took it to the freight trains! Some took it to the streets like VEC 4, PICK and VEEFER. Cool Art Creators became my publishing company. You see… I began to make beats in the late eighties. I took the graff to the music business! By the mid-nineties; I was into music production. Since I had the graff skills; I later formed a CAC graphics design group in Accra, Ghana. Armed with our Apple Macs and PhotoShop; we just got digital! So ya see…CAC still lives on. Making money though! There are a lot of details in between all my statements above. But ya know…people get the idea!
Who are all the official members past and present?
No one is really writing these days from the core crew but you got cats like PRIZ, REM 311 and others who still have the bug to hit freights and wall. There are others but I will not turn this into a shoutout page! The official members have been mentioned above. Officially though, are the names of cats who made my CAC list. This was info from me, the vice presidents and the five recruiters in the peak bombing stage of us. 1982-1986.
Do you have any good raid stories?
In the early winter of 1984 was a good story! GNOME CWK, his brother (who changed his name constantly and another cat and I decided to execute a whole car on the CC express track lays between Van Siclen and Liberty! GNOME was strapped! I remember telling him to leave the piece at home. We got to work on a typical Sunday afternoon. The piece was coming out fly! About five toys came through the lay-up walking inside the train. We knew they were toys because they were making mad noise! Only a few were tagging the insides. Gnome wanted me to help him vic them. I said ‘not today’. I wanted to get this burner up for Brooklyn. Gnome had the wickedest style coming out of Bed-Stuy/Crown Heights. We did blackbooks, but never a car together. The toys pushed on with their vandalism. I advised them not to smash any windows. They agreed. They only stopped momentarily to see what we were applying. Luckily we picked a spot to piece right by the emergency exit because what happened next saved us from arrest.
We had been piecing for an hour or so. While piecing, I heard more doors banging. I said to myself…"Hmm there must be more than five toys in this part of the lay-up". I thought the others had pushed on. I dropped my can. I told the others to hold up with the spraying. I climbed between the cars and peeked my head into the lit car. The CC doors were all open between the cars due to tilting of the train (track curve). I saw three DTs a car away. How did I know they were DTs? They were white. They had them lumberjack and Jets jackets on. (you know… the way Long Island whiteboys dressed in the eighties. Plus I saw the walkie-talkies. They were not writers! Mind you, I could see about three cars down due to the tilt. Yo! The four us headed for the emergency exit. I was the first up that staircase. That fucking trap door would NOT swing up for nothing! Gnome’s brother had to put some extra push on it with me! The shit was ill! As soon as we got that thing to fling up; I looked back and down to see two DTs entering the emergency stairwell with guns drawn! We were out and up on the street! We were running down Liberty Avenue at top speed. I knew the East New York neighborhood. I suggested that we enter a building and head for the rooftop. I advised Gnome to ditch the gun. We ran up an abandoned lot. He tossed the heater under a beat-up mattress and a mound of garbage. We went up on the roof and watch the activities. We were about 6 blocks from the emergency exit!
We stayed up on that roof for two hours! I realized quickly that I had left my fresh, Gray goose bomber hanging on the CC guard extensions between the cars. Not to mention we all left our sacks with our piecing paint! I had to go back and get my shit! Fuck the paint! I had just bought my coat from Delancy Street two weeks ago! I got the balls to say I wanted to go back and get my coat. No one else wanted to go. Gnome and his crew said they would make their way back to Crown Heights. We said our good-byes in front of the building. I walked to the Liberty Ave station and took the train back to Van Siclen to check out the activity in the tunnel.
After the station cleared; I jumped on the tracks and entered the tunnel. I was real careful before going back to the spot where we were piecing. Amazingly! My coat was still hanging in its place with all my shit in its pockets. The bags of paint were still on the ground. First; I was going take only my coat. I then realized that the heat had cooled off. I packed the leftover cans and put them all in my bag. I was tempted to finish my piece. (I had just begun the outline of the letters when the raid came.) GNOME and bro had completed theirs more than mine. I walked the tunnels to Liberty and came out to an abandoned platform. I didn't stick around with this paint. I went outside and walked to the J train and proceeded back to my home base. Gnome did say he retrned to pick up his gun. We found out later through the third rail wire that those toys got bagged. The cops noticed that they were in the tunnels. They concentrated their efforts on catching them. Luckily for us; I never saw a DT enter on the street from the exit.
Where were the crews favorite locations to paint?
We preferred underground lay-ups to the yards! Under Union Turnpike in Queens was a favorite spot for the GG flats, which switched regularly with the CC flats. Lots of tracks with parked trains! Plus space to step back and view your hard work!
Grant Avenue in Brooklyn was a good place because the CC flats were always parked against the wall. Good for whole cars! 175th Street in Manhattan was nice due to the number of trains packed in there! They even kept a ladder in the back! Plus they had a catwalk also! I personally liked the atmosphere of the Jamaica yards and the quiet Sunday afternoons at Ocean Parkway/Sheepshead Bay/Neck Road! I hated the smell of paint but I liked the smell of the subway tunnels.
Like I aid before, I have been to every lay-up in NYC transit system. Places to paint andto be well-lit and way from the sniffing public. I don't know how cats hit outsides at City Hall. I knew for a fact that those fumes just drifted right up to the active train platform. That was a Sunday afternoon place for me! Somebody needs to go to these tunnels and snap up these tags down there before the TA eradicates those also! The history is gone! The tunnels are te last remaining evidence!
Do you have any closing words?
I would like to work with a team; let's say... an archealogical team. We would enter the tunnels of New York City to document the tags on the concrete walls. These places are the last bastions of the origins and the golden bombing days of the New York City transit system. It would be highly important to photograph some of these tags. Then publish them with a year a location and possible story around that mystery person or event! As you know, all the history has been eradicated from the station stairwells and walls and the trains. Does anyone remember the concrete strips at the bottom of the station walls? When I started writing on the lines in '81; I was able to get full knowledge of who my predecessors were, just by examening the style of the tags and remembering the names! It was always exciting to know that I was following in the same paths as some of the greater writers from the '70s and even my contemporaries. Somebody needs to document what's left on those walls in those lay-ups. One could even go to the yards to check some walls or maintenance sheds there for these precious tags from an era of Hip Hop that is always forgotten. Lastly; we need a strong film (indie or hollywood) that follows the life of an actual graff writer. I'm talking about some highly detailed story exposing all of our secrets. This would reveal to the world that 'writing' was way more sophiticated than random vandalization. It could be anybody, because there are so many, may stories to tell! I just returned back to New York City after spending many years in Accra, Ghana. I am successful record producer (rap music)/djay and record label exec there. I will be in New York City through out 2002
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